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How to succeed at online learning

Posted August 25, 2020

By Samantha Lizardo

Woman studying at desk
Photo by Retha Ferguson on pexels.com

Learning online may take some time to adjust to, but there are lots of strategies and resources to help you achieve your learning goals this year.

Here are 5 tips to help you succeed at online learning:

Set up your workspace

Your environment can have a big impact on how you work. Create a space that encourages you to be productive and focused. Some things that can help elevate your workspace are good ergonomics, lighting and plants to help boost your mood and work comfortably. An organization system can help you reduce clutter and easily access all your course materials. Check out some tips on desk organization in the Life at U of T blog post by Rachel.

Build a routine

Staying motivated at home can be difficult, but routines and habits can support you to stay on top of your work. Explore the times when you’re the most productive and use that time to do your most important work.

Taking time for rest, eating and physical activity are just as important, and can even help your focus and memory. MoveU, Hart House Fitness and U of T Sport & Rec offer lots of great activities and resources online that you can incorporate into your schedule.

And don’t forget to have some fun and give yourself something to look forward to! Hang out with friends online, make new ones by joining a club and stay updated on upcoming events.

Engage in the content

Getting engaged in your coursework can make studying and learning online more enjoyable. Asking questions and participating in discussions are just a couple of ways to get involved and stay focused.

In How to Pay Attention in Online Classes, Life at U of T blogger, Olive shares that even just writing down a question helps her to stay tuned in to an online lecture. And if you feel comfortable enough, ask a question live or share a comment in the online discussions.

Exploring how you study and take notes best can also help you engage better. For note-taking tips, check out the How to Take Notes from Classes (PDF) from Academic Success and the Note Taking: Handwritten vs Typed Notes blog post by Rachel. 

Reach out to the U of T community

Connecting with your professors, instructors and TAs can be a great way to get more involved in your studies. Introduce yourself and drop into their online office hours. If you’re not sure how to start a conversation, check out these tips for talking to your professors.

Join an online Study Hub or Recognized Study Group to connect with other students and help each other stay motivated when studying. For graduate students, join a Graduate Writing Group or Grad Productivity Group.

You can also reach out to upper-year students and alumni through Mentorship & Peer Programs to hear from their experiences and ask for advice on specific courses, programs and opportunities.

Set clear expectations with yourself and others

Setting learning goals and making a plan gives you a clearer idea of what you need to do to succeed. Check out this SMART Goal Worksheet (PDF) to help you set clear and reasonable goals for yourself.

With coursework, read each course syllabus carefully, and make a calendar with all your commitments to break down projects and ensure that you can meet deadlines. Reach out to your professors, your registrar and/or a learning strategist if you have any academic concerns or need support for reaching your goals.

If you live with roommates or family, share your expectations and discuss how you can support each other when it comes to balancing working/living at home. If you need any support or accommodations due to family care responsibilities, contact the Family Care Office for guidance and resources.


For more tips on online learning and studying, check out the following resources:

If you have any questions about learning strategies, skills and navigating resources, schedule an appointment with a learning strategist.

This year will be full of new challenges and exploring new ways to learn. But be gentle with yourself and use all the opportunities and resources available to help you succeed.